SEATTLE — When Dr. Anthony Fauci needed someone to help lead the effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine, he reached out to a longtime friend in Seattle, Dr. Larry Corey at Fred Hutch.
They work closely together, talking almost daily about the challenges of extinguishing COVID-19 and getting more shots in peoples’ arms.
“Larry will always call me when I'm in front of a television camera giving an interview to somebody, the phone always goes off,” Dr. Fauci said with a laugh, before turning serious and explaining why he trusts his friend in Seattle with such important work.
“If I get a problem, and I need somebody to really fix it, I just get on the phone and call Larry, and you know the answer is going to be ‘yes,’ and the problem is going to get fixed,” Dr. Fauci said in an exclusive interview with KING 5, alongside Corey.
Corey knew Fauci long before his buddy became a household name. They first worked together in the ’80s on drugs to fight the world health crisis at the time: HIV.
“He is one of the leaders in the process of clinical trials for vaccines for a variety of diseases, particularly HIV,” Fauci said. “I can say with confidence that there's nobody better than he is, and that's what we needed because we were dealing with a historic pandemic.”
With vaccines now widely available in the U.S., Fauci and Corey said their priority is convincing as many people as possible to get the shots.
“You've got to get to the reasons why people are hesitant, and often when you do, and it's discussed with them by someone they trust, they come around and realize why it's important for them,” Fauci said.
“I think Tony's making a really great point here, maybe it's time for us to rethink the mass vaccination clinics. We need to get into the neighborhoods more and to have our community-based organizations be associated with vaccination, and to kind of build the trust that's required to actually get the vaccine into peoples' arms,” Corey said.
While COVID cases in the US as a whole are declining, Seattle and other parts of Washington are stuck in a stubborn fourth wave of the virus. Dr. Fauci says the reason why is not a mystery.
“There are people in your city that are not doing what they should be doing, otherwise, you would not be getting infection,” he said. “There isn't anything special about the virus that's circulating in Seattle that's different than the virus that's circulating in another place.”
“Get as many people vaccinated as quickly as you possibly can. There's no excuse not to, we have plenty of vaccine,” Fauci said.
The doctors think their COVID-19 vaccine work will help them tackle other diseases, like HIV, the virus that first brought them together nearly four decades ago.
“We hope that the same way that HIV research benefited COVID-19 vaccinology, that the success of COVID-19 vaccines is going to help us with vaccines for HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria,” Fauci said.
They are now studying how long COVID vaccine protection lasts, and whether people will need a booster shot in the coming years.
“I'd have to bet on the fact that we likely would have to boost people. How often that will be? It's really very difficult to predict that,” Fauci said.